The three P’s of perseverance

by July

… The seeds of resilience are planted in the way we process the negative events in our lives.

Sheryl Sandberg’s latest book is about building resilience.  Have you heard of the “three P’s”?

… After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that there are three Ps — personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence — that are critical to how we bounce back from hardship,” Sandberg said. …

Here are more details.

Sheryl Sandberg spoke about her husband’s death in public for the first time in an emotional speech

Resilience is a critical life skill.  Some people seem to possess an abundance of resilience, but how much of it is is nurture and how much nature?  In other words, how much can be taught?  Do you think teaching about the three P’s can help?  Looking around you at relatives, friends, colleagues, and others, do you understand why some are more resilient than others?  Or is it mostly a mystery?  What are your thoughts?

Something else to consider. Are totebaggers as a group highly resilient, or is it more that they have not been severely tested?

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87 thoughts on “The three P’s of perseverance

  1. I don’t think of myself as particularly resilient. Somewhat to the contrary, I think I’m more apt to quickly make peace with a certain outcome rather than push hard to advance past it, for better and worse. Being happy through lowered expectations is great, but there’s a downside in that you might find yourself satisfied prematurely. The crucial question, then, is whether the goal is happiness and satisfaction, or whether it’s maximum achievement.

    What resilience I might have I attribute to my early undergrad experiences, since that was realistically the first, and perhaps the only significant adversity I’ve faced. In one sense, it was entirely manufactured, but then it’s no less real to those experiencing it. Eventually, I think it taught me to just grit and bear it and stop thinking so much*. I think one effect of that was I developed a protective hardening toward criticism, especially if I think the criticism is unfounded. That, too, has its pluses and minuses, as it can be perceived as disinterest.

    * My Dad had a lot of good advice when I’d complain to him. At one point, he sent me the following Far Side cartoon:

    with the advice to stop thinking it’s personal, and, really, stop thinking so much in general. They’re hunting you because they’re the hunters and you’re the deer. That’s it.

  2. That brief second helped me see that there were other things in my life that were not awful. My children and I were healthy. My friends and family were so loving and they carried us—quite literally at times.

    And the warm loving embrace that only 10 million shares of Facebook can offer .

  3. Wow, I really liked her speech.

    And I am going with Option A: we tend towards resilient. We have people here who have lost children, and who have had children go through life-threatening illnesses and other major challenges. (I use this example because it is, to me, the absolute scariest thing that I can imagine, the thing that I think would destroy me). But they’re still here.

    The other thing is that challenges are subjective. I remember reading some research suggesting that people who had an “easier” life nevertheless perceived their problems as just as significant as did people who had it much harder by any objective standard — the problems by and large had the same emotional impact on the individuals. If that is true, then even these objectively lesser challenges required a comparable amount of resilience to overcome (say, same order of magnitude).

  4. I think that everyone wallows in one or more of her 3 Ps for some amount of time. I think the key is not getting stuck there and that is resilience.

    I also think that in our culture we seems to have two extremes in how people react – one is that we can control everything so if anything bad happens it has to be our fault and the other is absolutely nothing is our fault. But, most of reality is somewhere in between.

    But, I think there are other parts to this. My example is not the death of a family member problem, but I see it as building resilience. DD#1 and this internship are a challenge. I think having multiple interns in her group is a problem for the manager and for the interns. She comes home yesterday with what happened that day. She said the boss has them go to a conference room an then usually comes in to see them after they arrive and before they leave. But, sometimes they wait an hour for that visit. She is very discouraged, doesn’t think this is helping her, and thinks she should have opted for working at Starbucks. I asked a few questions and immediately saw two problems.

    1. The interns are all in passive mode (wait until someone comes to them in the morning, assume boss knows they are done with a task, etc.). 2. They have been given no information on office protocol so they have no idea what is expected of them. For all of them this is their first experience in the workforce so they have no reference point and had no clue to ask.

    I suggested the following:
    1. That if their boss hasn’t come to them 5 minutes after the start time, she go to his office and politely say – We are all here and need our assignment for today.
    2. When the boss does give the assignment, she ask about how long he thinks it should take them and how should they communicate that they are finished.
    3. At the end of the day, she communicate the status of the assignment.
    4. In general, they need to ask who they should talk to about their assignments if their boss isn’t there.
    5. She is relying on the pattern of the intern who is there the entire summer and just because he role models not taking initiative doesn’t mean that is the expectation of the office.
    6. To ask questions of the various people she meets, what do they do, what is their typical day like, and what in their education helped them the most. This is what she wanted to know and they are giving her access to people, but she is just focusing on getting the one piece of information she needs from each one.

    I am hoping with some pro-active steps on her part, she can turn this into a better experience.

  5. That hunting cartoon is great. The personalization issue is a big one for me. Overthinking. I guess the Nike slogan — “just do it” — can be good advice.

  6. Rhett – that is what I was thinking.

    I don’t think I am very resilient. It became apparent when my oldest was very sick. I had a hard time coping and had we not had a good outcome, I think it would have destroyed me. So, I am mostly grateful for my life thus far and that I haven’t really experienced a terrible tragedy.

  7. My 40’s were about loss. My mother’s death when I was 41 (mom was only 63 when she died) hit me hard. We talked every day and my parents came up or I went down at least once a week.
    I felt cheated that my mom died so young and had a hard time accepting her death.

    Our lumber business took a real hit with the S&L crisis. We were building our dream home we had to sell and then we closed our business. We also owned commercial property which we had to sell or give back to the bank accompanied by a large six figure check.

    We then bought a food business which looked good when we did our due diligence but realized later the numbers were fiction. We hung on for 4 years thinking if we just worked a little harder we could make it profitable. We had no real income and lived off our capital. We finally got smart, closed it and got jobs.

    It was a tough time but we got thru it and our marriage got stronger – it was us against the world. It is almost 20 years since we got out of the food business and we are doing well and have a nice retirement in place and more importantly our kids are doing well. Now if one of them got married and gave us some grandchildren, life would really be sweet!

  8. Not to bring this too much into the political, but I’d say that one of the many unique aspects of the 2016 Presidential election were the unbelievable levels of perseverance of the two major nominees, even by politician standards. I can admire that of both candidates: one’s shown it for the past 25 years, and the other endured 18 months of almost entirely negative predictions about the outcome, very little support from his own party (and tentative support at that), polls going from bad to worse after the video came out, and he still just kept going and going through a grueling campaign schedule, day after day after day. As for Hillary, my mom’s observation following her husband’s impeachment was that she (my mom) wouldn’t be able to show her face in public after what Bill did to her, yet Hillary just kept pushing along with her plans and ambitions, so while she may not like her, there’s something to be learned from that. Mortals like us can get embarrassed and discouraged by something going wrong, and we let it keep us from pursuing more; in reality, sometimes you can just act like it never happened and eventually it doesn’t matter.

  9. “people who had an “easier” life nevertheless perceived their problems as just as significant as did people who had it much harder by any objective standard — the problems by and large had the same emotional impact on the individuals.”

    I can believe this but it sounds pretty awful. My hangnail makes me suffer as much as your terminal cancer.

  10. Most regulars here have shared some significant adverse experiences, and are not only still here but (at least as far as casual observers IRL) actually thriving with healthy personal relationships, challenging work, interesting hobbies, and mostly UMC incomes. We’ve all been blessed with good brains but I’m not sure that whatever else has helped us thrive can be summarized in three handy words.

  11. I meant to add, contrast those two candidates with Jeb Bush’s bewildered frustration that “I could be doing so many cool things right now [instead of putting up with these attacks].”

    File him away with Caroline Kennedy. Two people who learned that you have to be willing to fight for it.

  12. I think during one debate when asked to say something positive about HRC, Trump praised her persistence and resilience.

  13. I will say I think the “personalization” needs to be a happy medium. E.g., I was really upset after rescue kitten died, and started to say if only DD had known to tell me it was losing weight earlier, etc. DH got very brusque and basically said, “don’t even start on ‘it’s all my fault,’ not all of them make it, that’s why cats have multiple kittens at a time.” And I got mad at him, because that’s not where I was going at all — I’m not going to spend days/weeks beating myself up over that. But I do think it is important to look at a situation to understand where the possible failure points were, so that you can learn from it and do better next time, on at least those things you can control. So, e.g., I had just assumed the kittens would be fine and DD would know to tell me if they weren’t, and so if we are going to keep fostering kittens, it is useful to recognize that blind spot so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

    So to me, that aspect is always a happy medium — you cannot take responsibility/guilt for things that are out of your control, but you also can’t just assume everything that went wrong was fate/the universe/someone else’s fault. You need to be able to look objectively at a problem to see what you may have contributed, so you can learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

  14. I am not much into the whole resiliance thing. Maybe for everyday challenges, it makes a difference. A resilient person can handle a bad grade on a paper, and will read the feedback to improve the next paper, whereas a nonresilient person will ignore the feedback and just say “I am a bad writer”. But for the really big challenges, the life alterring ones, I think we all cope in more or less the same way, head down, trudging forwards, because there is no choice. The big bad challenges are too big for resilience. Sandberg may congratulate herself on her resilience after her husband died, but really, anyone who has lost a spouse or a child, or dealt with a really sick family member, or a life threatening illness, or a financial catastrophe, does the same thing. I saw my parents after my brother died, an in law after he went bankrupt and lost everything, another in law who lost a job and had a long process finding another, and ourselves in crisis mode – and we were all the same. We moved forwards because there is no backwards

  15. “I think during one debate when asked to say something positive about HRC, Trump praised her persistence and resilience.”

    yes, that’s true. and when put on the spot, I think people will often praise that which they value most, either in themselves or in general.

  16. and why the “low-energy” nickname for Jeb, which seemed so weird to me at first, was so brilliantly devastating.

  17. “I can believe this but it sounds pretty awful. My hangnail makes me suffer as much as your terminal cancer.”

    I think about this in the context of the “Real Housewives” stuff — really, you have awesome families and all the money you need and are living in this great place, and yet you are allowing yourself to get all worked up over perceived slights and social status stuff that really doesn’t matter?” Except of course to them it does, because they don’t have “bigger” [for lack of a better word] problems to deal with.

    I also think this is part of the disconnect and anger over privilege/”check your privilege” stuff, e.g., we whine about things like the cost of paying for college and the lack of financial aid, and people lower on the socioeconomic scale think, “really? I’ll be lucky if I can afford to send my kid to community college.” Objectively speaking, there is no real comparison between the two, and you’d hope people have the self-awareness to recognize that; but since the only thing we experience is what is in our own heads, our issues “feel” just as important to us.

  18. But for the really big challenges, the life alterring ones, I think we all cope in more or less the same way, head down, trudging forwards, because there is no choice.

    Or they turn to drugs and alcohol which is a fairly common coping strategy.

  19. As someone currently recovering from my ninth joint surgery (hips 5 / knees 4) I feel like a pretty damn good perseverer. It has seemed that every time I recover from one (which takes daily work over some years), I learn that I need another. I’m sick of it. But, I’ve been sick of it since the whole thing started when I was 10 years old, and I’ve always known that being sick of it isn’t going to make it stop. (I’m hopeful this one might have been the last …) (I’ve said that before though).

    I think this lifelong experience has made it quite natural for me to persevere, rather than quit, in other aspects of life. I expect things will be hard and expect bad things to happen, since that’s been my experience w/ my joints. I don’t expect breaks or to have things go my way because in this significant area of my life, I just haven’t been able to catch a break. I think it has resulted in my not being not surprised at difficulties or failures or horrible curve balls – I may gripe for a while about them but ultimately, I take them in stride and move on, because I never really thought for a moment that they wouldn’t happen.

    It probably also helped having a father who didn’t allow any complaining of any kind for any reason. Ever.

  20. “But for the really big challenges, the life alterring ones, I think we all cope in more or less the same way, head down, trudging forwards, because there is no choice.”

    I have not seen that. Sandberg’s book is titled Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. I’ve seen people never find true joy again after a life-altering adversity. Or they turn to drugs, or other unproductive solutions.

  21. “Sandberg may congratulate herself on her resilience after her husband died, but really, anyone who has lost a spouse or a child, or dealt with a really sick family member, or a life threatening illness, or a financial catastrophe, does the same thing.”

    See, I think this is false. Not everyone makes it through stuff like that, at least not intact. People commit suicide; they turn to drugs/alcohol or other self-destructive behavior for relief; marriages break up; they escape to Vegas or online gambling; or they just give in to depression and sit on the couch for years. My own stepbrother has struggled with depression/anxiety for decades; every problem is another example of how he isn’t good enough and will never succeed and shouldn’t bother to try.

    When DD was little, I was so anxious/scarred from the miscarriages that I just knew, with 100% certainty, that if something happened to her, I would get some pills and commit suicide. Honestly, part of the reason I wanted to have a second kid was because that thought scared the hell out of me — because I knew I wouldn’t do that if it meant leaving another child behind. Not saying that is normal or right or anything like that (and I don’t feel like that now). But I think more people can be permanently damaged or destroyed by certain life events than we are really aware of; they just happen to be invisible to us, because we tend to hang out with the ones who made it through.

  22. “head down, trudging forwards, because there is no choice.”

    I think the fact you think this way means you are resilient. Not everyone has this attitude.

  23. You aways hear about people who were normal suddenly turning to drugs or drink after a terrible life event. It is the stuff of many a novel or movies. But when I look at who actually drink or does drugs destructively, I see people who slid into it just as part of their lives. Nothing particular happened that drove them to it. Maybe coming from a very disordered childhood predisposes, but I honestly think it is more genetics.
    I do see people who start drinking, especially, or eating destructively, after a life altering event, but it often seems to be temporary, a crutch. Is it possible for self medication to sometimes be a good thing? I don’t know. But I think people who fall apart with drugs after something really bad happens were often people already heading that way.

  24. I am trying to figure out another way to put this. I think people who have done poorly after a major life event are often people who were already doing poorly. For example, my father is not someone you would call resilient – he had struggled with anxiety and hypochondria for years, and had issues with painkiller addiction at times. After my brother died, he was pretty much still the same. No better, no worse. He muddled through that terrible time in pretty much the same way he always had. When really bad stuff happens, we all muddle through in pretty much the same way we do anything because their is no choice. What makes people have anxiety or drug addiction, or depression is more fundamental and is likely genetic.

  25. And that stuff they are trying to teach in schools – I guess KIPP has really bought into it – is just a crock in my opinion. What on earth is grit anyway? Much of what they are calling grit is just a combination of common sense, good study skills, and social skills.

  26. You aways hear about people who were normal suddenly turning to drugs or drink after a terrible life event. It is the stuff of many a novel or movies.

    I know someone who was an upper middle class totebag type who lost his son and best in a teenage car crash and spiraled into drugs and alcohol and ended up in jail. So I’ll offer that as an anecdote.

  27. “head down, trudging forwards, because there is no choice.”

    I think the fact you think this way means you are resilient. Not everyone has this attitude.

    Exactly. Not everyone is able to keep moving forward after a tragedy.

  28. Unless you really know someone, I think often you have no idea how the big things have affected them. I would guess that almost everyone thought I handled my son’s situation well. I even showed up to a previously scheduled baby shower for me at work and smiled and showed off pictures. You don’t talk about how you sleep with your clothes on because you are traumatized by the late night calls to come back to the hospital. It makes people uncomfortable.

  29. People who can’t move forward after a tragedy don’t necessarily turn to drugs. They often withdraw from life – stop seeing their friends, etc – or it can manifest in other ways.

  30. Related to the comment on people with small problems perceiving them to be just as large as ‘real’ problems – this completely describes my sister. She used to drive us bonkers with constant dwelling on the most minor things. And then she had some significant problems come her way, including the diagnosis of a child’s severe special needs. We worried about how she would handle it, but she has taken it in stride, and think she actually complains less now that she has some perspective about real problems.

  31. Kate, that you were able to do that is what perseverance is. It probably would have been much easier for you to skip the shower, but you chose to go.

    Mooshi keeps saying “When really bad stuff happens, we all muddle through in pretty much the same way we do anything because their is no choice.” but there is a choice. Basically you can choose to live or you can choose to give up.

  32. @Mooshi: I think you are actually describing resilience and its opposite, just not in those words. I think Risley nailed it, that resilience is like a muscle that you build over time and experience; you begin to learn that you can get through the next challenge because you got through the last one.

    But the non-resilient response works the same way as well. In my stepbrother’s case, he had some issues, probably beginning in early childhood, that led to him concluding that he was not good enough and not worth anything and would never succeed. So every time something bad happened, he interpreted that consistently with his past experience, as more evidence that he was right. Over time, that became a self-defeating feedback loop that he couldn’t escape.

    So in his case, when he finally did begin to drink and failed out of college, you could easily look at him and say, gee, he was just depressed and predisposed to that. Or you could say that that particular crash and burn was the result of a lifelong habit of “personalizing” all of the bad events that happened to him as proof that he was unworthy, until he had weakened himself to the point that he couldn’t handle even the slightest adversity any more. You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.

    I was lucky to have taken the other tack, without necessarily trying or realizing it at the time. There have clearly been times in my life in which a major event, like the death of a child, would have caused me to crumple. But I was never pressed to that extent, and I was able to handle the less-significant bad shit that flowed my way.* And making it through all of that — seeing that there is always another side that you come out of — built the resilience muscle to be better able to handle the next pile o’ bad shit that is always lurking somewhere ahead.

    *I was particularly struck by Sandberg’s focus on the “it could be worse”/”look at the good stuff” line, because it made me realize that is exactly how I got through the miscarriages. I was in a total self-pity rut, angry that 14-yr-olds were having babies and putting them in trash cans, and I, who desperately wanted a child, couldn’t keep a pregnancy. And then I flipped, literally overnight, to realizing that, yes, it sucked, but at least I had all these resources (emotional/financial/relationship-wise) to deal with it, and I hadn’t built my whole life around having a kid, and and and, etc. It wasn’t like smiley unicorns flew in on rainbows to make everything better; I was still pissed as HELL about everything. But it went from “why me?” to “why NOT me?” — and even to “well, better me than someone who doesn’t have all of the support and resources I do.” And that switch that flipped made me suddenly realize that I would get through it one way or another.

  33. Kate said “You don’t talk about how you sleep with your clothes on because you are traumatized by the late night calls to come back to the hospital.”

    That is just normal. That isn’t lack of resilience. Do you know, for several years after my kid was sick, I couldn’t bring myself to buy clothes for him ahead of season. For example, most people with small kids snatch up the sale items at the end of winter for the “next year’s size”, but I couldn’t do it because I felt like I couldn’t expect a next year. At one point, I mentioned that to another family whose kid had just finished treatment, and the mom said she had the same problem! And (this was a mailing list) others started weighing in on the future plans they felt they couldn’t yet make. That is just a normal thing. Eventually, we all moved onwards and were able to plan for the future. Oh, and I kept a bag of clothes out in the car for years, because we had lived at the mercy of middle of the night runs into Manhattan because of fevers. The bag stayed out there even after it no longer made sense. When we finally bought a new car a few years ago, I unearthed the bag and realized where some of my clothes had gone.

  34. “Lift each other up, help each other kick the sh!t out of option B—and celebrate each and every moment of joy.”

    I’ve wondered lately if resilience isn’t a personal journey, but a collective one. We all talk about times that are tough (some tougher than others), but we never talk about going through those times 110% alone. Sandberg called it a ‘resilience organization.’

    I think about the stuff I’ve gone through, and at no time was I truly alone. I may have felt that way, but the second I opened my mouth to talk about the stuff, I found a ton of people who had either been there, or were there, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t alone. That made it easier for me to talk sooner the next time. And the next time. Sooner or later, I wonder if a person begins to realize that they can make it through because so many others have.

  35. Culturally I grew up with the expectation that there will be good times and bad ones. And things happen even if you eat your vegetables and exercise every day. So, while things like a tragic death or severe illness do come as a shock, one part of you is sort of prepared.
    Never the expectation that life will be perfect all the time.

  36. I am persevering through a drive home from JFK that is expected to take longer than my flight back to NY.

    I think most of us would step up and do what we have to do to get through difficult experiences. I think society doesn’t always give us the time we need to get through something. In some cases, it’s impossible to get over it. My friend that lost her son seems happy, but it took years of therapy and medicine to get to this point. Simple questions such as how many kids do you have, can change her entire day.

  37. “Regarding the school lunches, you also have to consider the socioeconomic/cultural background of the people serving the lunches.”

    My first exposure to tacos was as a small kid in the school cafeteria. None of us knew what they were or how we were supposed to eat them, and our teachers didn’t know either.

    My guess is that the cafeteria got the taco shells as part of a federal program, and the cafeteria ladies (they were always ladies BITD) had to figure out how to prepare and serve them.

    Eventually our teachers provided us some guidance on how to eat them. My guess is that the cafeteria manager provided them with that guidance.

  38. None of us knew what they were or how we were supposed to eat them, and our teachers didn’t know either.

    And pre internet there was almost no way to find out. Maybe there would be a taco entry in the encyclopedia?

  39. We didn’t even know they were tacos, so we wouldn’t have known what to look up. We thought they were really big Fritos.

  40. “things happen even if you eat your vegetables and exercise every day”
    Realizing that is more important than can be expressed in words.

    On tacos, I remember my mother’s amazement at the exotic items on the school lunch menu for my cousins’ school in Scottsdale. My aunt used to send us a box every winter with oranges from the tree in their yard and taco shells.

  41. Rhode, that makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve gone through some tough things. Everybody knew they were tough, so besides my close network, strangers to whom I somehow mentioned them were quick to sympathize/empathize. I got through all of them. The toughest thing ever for me, the one from which I’ve fallen and I can’t get up is the one that snuck up on me. Nobody saw the rug get pullled out from under me, it’s a strange kind of situation, and I don’t have people helping me out. Or didn’t anyway. I think I’ve found a compatible therapist, and that should help.

  42. I don’t think every one is resilient. I had a friend that was s great guy – had more friends as an adult than anyone I know. Was super active in his community, great kids, married, close to siblings and parents, and was a VP at a couple of different companies. After a series of job situations that didn’t work out, he had s perfectly normal dinner with his father, and home to his family, and after everyone went to bed, took his own life. It was definitely not s continuation of a life trajectory. Every person I knew who knew him could not get over how stunned they were. I think he was resilient up until the point where he wasn’t.

    On the flip side, a sorority sister from my college days recently lost her young adult daughter. I cannot believe the strength she has shown. She spoke at the service, which is something I don’t think I could do. And as for being supported by a community, other women from our group who may not have seen her for 20 years drove hours to be there. (I was not able to go, but talked to my friends before and after the service). I think people really want to be supportive, maybe especially in a “there but for the grace of God” situation. Are people as supportive to someone battling addiction?

  43. I have seen a lot of people at their worst, and it is interesting the variety of responses. A memorable event was a youngish woman with cancer (50s? 60s?) who was predicted to have 6-12 months to live. She was on a trip to visit family and friends and had an unexpected medical event that involved a few hours of drama in the ER, ending in death. A family member posted a long narrative on the community FB page about how kind and dedicated the staff at the ER were, how torn apart he was by the loss, and how grateful he was for the care the family received in that moment.

    You might be surprised, but I can count on 1 hand how many people have given me thanks for care surrounding the death or near-death of a loved one. I’m sure plenty of quality, resilient people get caught up in the moment, or the beginning of a terrible medical sequence of events and see us as only bit players. I don’t mean to condemn all the other people I have seen under tragic circumstances. What I do mean to do is highlight that there is a wide variety of responses, and I suspect that the people at one end of the bell curve are more resilient all the time, and that leads to a certain kind of life.

    On the other hand, the two families who have attempted to physically attack me when I delivered medical status updates? I imagine a large number of those people are in jail.

  44. My father is an alcoholic who has had a pretty unsatisfying professional trajectory. I suspect that it all relates to his time in Vietnam. He was drafted because he made an error in transferring colleges under a student deferment. Perhaps he would have been unsuccessful and alcoholic if he had never gone to war, but it seems unlikely given the outcomes of his peers and the professional outcomes of his parents. Some might say (if I knew who to ask) that he was destined to be a failure and “was already doing poorly” at 22 and that war and addiction was just in the cards for him, but that’s not the way I see the world.

  45. In my opinion, tote bag types have as a founding life principle unlimited faith in their own agency. By that I mean their own ability to shape outcomes for themselves and their families by hard work, foresight, and good choices. The range of socio political views expressed here demonstrates that the core principle can be extended or not extended to others outside our cohort in widely different ways, and even came up in the discussion above about underlying psychological lack of resilience although not along the habitual political division lines.

    The fact that some people like us cannot fully recover from tragedies and traumas is in great part because the belief in control of our own lives has been shattered. Many of us have not been sorely tested, so our beliefs are not challenged by an experience of serious bad fortune. Some have been sorely tested and persevered, and cannot imagine a life in which we would give up or just allow circumstances to overwhelm us permanently. Some have changed course and had to find a new definition of a successful life.

  46. “In my opinion, tote bag types have as a founding life principle unlimited faith in their own agency. By that I mean their own ability to shape outcomes for themselves and their families by hard work, foresight, and good choices. …

    The fact that some people like us cannot fully recover from tragedies and traumas is in great part because the belief in control of our own lives has been shattered. Many of us have not been sorely tested, so our beliefs are not challenged by an experience of serious bad fortune. Some have been sorely tested and persevered, and cannot imagine a life in which we would give up or just allow circumstances to overwhelm us permanently. Some have changed course and had to find a new definition of a successful life. “

    This seems right. We’ve often discussed this “myth” of how we control our own lives, yet I somehow persist in believing that myth. But the vital missing link is the possession of a certain inner quality or qualities that enable control. It could be intelligence, a cheerful disposition, stubbornness, and/or a predisposition to eschew addiction, to name a few examples. If we are lucky enough to possess some or all of these qualities then we can control our own lives, regardless of how outside events devastate our world.

    TL;DR You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you react. IF you can control yourself.

  47. Just saw this. (Of course it was in the context of a politically snarky tweet.) It’s also interesting that it was his son’s ninth-grade graduation. Ninth grade?

    ‘I Wish You Bad Luck.’ Read Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ Unconventional Speech to His Son’s Graduating Class

    Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. … I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

  48. Mémé said, “In my opinion, tote bag types have as a founding life principle unlimited faith in their own agency. By that I mean their own ability to shape outcomes for themselves and their families by hard work, foresight, and good choices. ”

    In order for free will to have meaning, we need to structure society as if this statement is true and to be very careful of the unintended consequences when we acknowledge that it is only partially true. The mystery of consciousness and free will is one of the last great mysteries of science.

  49. I think that Meme is right about Totebaggers having faith in their own agency, but IMO it is this sense of agency that actually enables people to withstand life’s reverses of fortunes. Those who lack this sense, who believe that they have no ability to control or at least to direct their life outcomes, may be more likely to give up in the face of adversity than those who, with a false sense of control, sailed along in a trouble-free life until trouble hit. Those in the latter group might well be initially shattered by their adversity, but are in a far better position to pivot to their new circumstances than those who just accept whatever happens to them as fate.

  50. I think the wanting to be in control and keep things on track so that everything goes right, leads to a lot of anxiety in Totebaggy types.
    It may not be evident on the surface but it is there. There was anxiety in the home country but I don’t recall people and their kids feeling so anxious or maybe the community and people around served as a buffer.

  51. The mystery of consciousness and free will is one of the last great mysteries of science.

    Philosophy, honey, not science. And you’re a soft determinist. I never would have suspected!

  52. Oben thing I think really helps people bounce back is those standard routines we’ve talked about in so many conversations on here. When I gave my child up for adoption, when I had the miscarriage, and especially when I learned I’d be a single mother, I had the support networks I mentioned earlier, but I also had life set up with regular rythms and routines. Not having them leaves you in free fall, with nothing to grab onto as you flail about. Not much flailing is possible when you need to nurse a baby and write lectures for tomorrow’s class. You hit those things immediately, grab on, and keep going by pulling yourself along from one to te next.
    An in-between situation for me was the summer after my husband left me. I was supposed to be reading and making a bibliography for my qualifying exams, just me, the library, and my study, with some medative moments in the herb garden and gym. There wasn’t much structure there, and I spent days and days in bed crying. My “routine” eventually was for two friends who ran a nearby cafe to come get me out of bed when they closed between lunch and dinner.. What finally got me operational again was a phone call saying I could have the grant I’d been waitlisted for if I ran through quals, proposal defense, etc and was ABD in exactly the minimum amount of time set by the rules–a little over six weeks, so basically a flat-out sprint. By the time I finished and got to Berlin, the depression was behind me and I was once again full of energy.

  53. Completely off-topic, an announcement from Nordstrom Rack:

    Natori intimate apparel and sleepware Flash sale on now.

    Do they not have proofreaders, or did the intern whose job it was to proof-read that email think it was too funny not to send?

  54. “I think the wanting to be in control and keep things on track so that everything goes right, leads to a lot of anxiety in Totebaggy types.”

    I agree. But a way to counteract that goes back to how we process negative events. Things will go wrong and go off track. So it’s “good” to have bad luck, as Justice Roberts said in his speech, if you’re able to learn how to be resilient.

  55. That was a great speech by Roberts, and one that those boys may remember longer than the typical bland graduation speech.
    But the concept of a boarding school that ENDS with 9th grade is unusual. Presumably there are other boarding schools that begin in 10th grade to accept those graduates?

  56. Re. the Roberts speech (which I liked): I had never heard of this school before, and I was fascinated to learn that it accepts 6th graders as boarders. All of the New England boarding schools I’d heard of before are strictly high schools (except for one that admits a small class of 8th graders).

  57. Scarlett — None of the NE prep schools I’m familiar with starts at 10th grade. The vast majority start in 9th, so the boys graduating from the 9th grade class at Cardigan (Roberts’ kid’s school) would have to enter their new schools one year later than most of their classmates.

    There is a very totebaggy private day school in Brookline (just outside Boston) that used to go from Kindergarten through 9th grade. Last year, they decided to end their ninth-grade program because enrollment had dwindled too much; most parents were switching schools for their kids after 8th grade so that the kids could enter their new schools at 9th grade, which is overwhelmingly the norm.

  58. I was surprised at the switching that took place after the 5th grade. I didn’t know too much at the time but the magnet schools offer certain path that take hold in middle school all the way through end of high school. So, if you are in IB middle, you automatically go to IB high otherwise it gets harder to enter later. Same with the arts magnet.

  59. Completely unrelated to anything: Yesterday after dinner, I took a walk with DS. We walked along the the waterfront of our town (which is located at the mouth of a river that opens up to the Atlantic Ocean). There is a public dock downtown where visiting boaters can tie up. Most of the boats that use this dock are modest boats owned by regular people. Occasionally we’ll see something like the boats Milo sometimes posts as examples of what he’d love to own in his retirement. So imagine our surprise when we saw this tied up at the public dock:

    http://www.burgerboat.com/custom/new/ladygaylemarie

    I’m not a boat person at all, but even I was sort of blown away by how beautiful it was.

  60. Background:

    Benson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the late Thomas Benson, Sr., and the late Carmen Benson. He served in the U.S. Navy and then graduated with an accounting degree at Loyola University of New Orleans in 1948. After school he worked as a car salesman at Cathey Chevrolet in New Orleans. In 1956, he moved to San Antonio to try and revive a poorly performing dealership; he was granted a 25% interest in the dealership for his efforts. In 1962, he became full owner of Tom Benson Chevrolet. He is the owner of several automobile dealerships in the Greater New Orleans and San Antonio areas. Benson became wealthy by investing profits from his automobile dealerships in local banks. He eventually purchased several small Southern banks and formed Benson Financial, which he sold to Norwest Corporation in 1996.

  61. Milo — The stories about the fighting over his business empire are sort of sad. You’d think that with a fortune of $1.87B, there could be a division among the kids, grandkids, and third wife that everyone could be happy with.

  62. Rocky – I think something said that when it was a few years old and for sale, the price was reduced to $9 million. Buy used, save the difference. But then you need a captain and crew. Or ar least a crew.

    NoB – it sounds like he previously cut her out of his will his will.

    We’ve left the kids for another week, this time with DW’s parents

  63. Umm, wow. A Capricorn moon? Riiiiiiight.

    Reminds me of a conversation over the 4th with a mom friend. She has been obese since I met her, and her son is trending the same way. She’s asking me about crossfit and such, and she’s telling me about this new diet pill her doc started her on, and I’m commiserating, because, you know, I can totally empathize. And then she says that she’s really into some version of astrology (like “medical astrology” or “health astrology” or something like that), and then she says she has spent hours making and poring over her charts, and everywhere you look, everything says she’s just supposed to be fat. And all I could think was, well, that’s one way to guarantee that outcome.

    Which goes back to that perception of control, above — I think it is necessary but not sufficient. I feel like I see both sides of the argument, because I’ve fought two long-term battles in my life — one not to be poor, and one to be thin.* The first battle I have won, and the second I feel like I can never win. But I still keep fighting. Because what’s the alternative — retire to my recliner, not be able to get out and enjoy life, and keel over in 5 years? I totally get my friend’s frustration, because I got the “throwback” genes in my family, and I have been fighting the thyroid for over two decades now, and I don’t like vegetables, and I’m always hungry, and and and and and. But again: what’s the alternative? It’s not like whining about it or shaking my fist at the heavens will change any of that.

    So the only way I have found to stay sane is to acknowledge the limits of my control (I can’t control the result, i.e., I will never look like my mother and will still keel over at some point), and do what I can within those limits (i.e., get my ass out of bed for 6 AM crossfit + eat as healthfully as I can without driving myself nuts). Which, btw, is damn hard, because I am a competitive, all-or-nothing person, and so acknowledging I can never “win” to the degree I want is frustrating as hell to accept and is a constant temptation to give in to “why bother?” But, you know, when the choices are either conclude that the alignment of the stars at the moment of my birth fated me to be fat, or rage, rage against the dying of the light, I choose the latter.

    * Irony alert: I was totally thin until the thyroid hit in my late 20s. I just didn’t see it at the time.

  64. We were discussing creative and tasty salads the other day. Yesterday I had a restaurant salad that I just need to prepare at home. Arugula, goat cheese, red onions, avocado, candied pecans with balsamic vinegar dressing. That’s simple enough. (I could use plain pecans or other nuts and feta cheese.) Unfortunately, no one else in my family would eat this since some or all of them don’t like goat cheese, arugula, avocado, and sweet add-ons to salad. I asked my H what could be added to a salad that would make it better. Bacon, he said. Lots of bacon. ;)

  65. LFB, so even with medication (or other treatment?) the negative thyroid effects persist?

  66. “But again: what’s the alternative?”

    It seems like you assume the alternative is that you’re an obese blob competing for a spot on My 600 lb Life.

    What if the alternative is simply that you’re 20 lbs heavier? And with that, you don’t have to kill yourself as you likely build up injuries at Crossfit, that you can enjoy a Mocha Frappuccino and a pepperoni pizza with some regularity — in short, that you don’t have to make this so painful?

    Looking around, isn’t that the far more likely alternative?

  67. Put another way, if all this Crossfit and food limitations isn’t working to make you thin (by your standards), why do you assume that the absence of it will make you fat?

  68. LfB – I like Milo’s comments. I do think one must get enough exercise but don’t injure yourself with a very strenuous regimen.

    I had to make peace very early on that I wasn’t going to be tall or thin. It was very stressful and my teens were probably the worst time of my life. Going to a nutritionist helped – I did lose weight, I gained some back but I could manage it with the advice she gave me.

    For breakfast I eat a small bowl of grits with you guessed, it a tiny serving of bacon bits. Tastes yummy. A change from eating oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar, raisins and pecans every single day.

  69. Kids and Resilience – With both of my girls, I worried a lot about how they would react to adversity – would they perserve or would they quit? Did they have the ability to discern when quitting is the best choice? It took until middle school for both of them for me to get an idea of their personalities because they had so little in their world that could be considered an adversity.

    I also wanted them to have experience of struggle and the experience of seeing the other side on some smaller things. I know that sounds crazy in a way, but recognizing that they have coping skills that are not self-destructive are something I want for them.

  70. For breakfast I eat a small bowl of grits

    Ah, you’ve become a true Southerner, Louise!

  71. @July: Yes.

    “What if the alternative is simply that you’re 20 lbs heavier?”

    It’s not. I wish it were. I’m 5’7″. In HS, I weighed 125; 10 yrs later when my thyroid hit, I was 135. 20 years later, I hit 206. Freaking ridiculous — I gained half a me. And that was not gorging myself silly — that was eating until I felt full. And I was steadily gaining; there didn’t seem to be a plateau in sight.

    I’m also not talking about going nuts and trying to be 125 again. I’m trying, very hard, to find balance, which is hard in and of itself because I suck at it. I am focusing on getting strong, because I really, really like the way it feels (I am up to 4-5x/week at Crossfit not because I am pushing or punishing myself, but because I am completely, utterly addicted — I bench-pressed 100 lbs last week for the first time ever and feel *awesome* about that). I am not super-restricting food, but trying to find a reasonable balance that I can live with — shifting to more salads and vegetables, lighter proteins, and lower carbs in general; but at the same time, it’s summer, the ice cream store is open, and any diet is going to have to plan for ice cream at least 2-3x/week, you know? (And we’re just not even going to discuss this weekend’s beach deliciousness) And I am not focusing on a target weight, but rather a weight that I can maintain with the combination of diet and exercise that feels doable to me. I couldn’t even tell you what I weigh now; my dr. makes me weigh in once a month, and I know I’m down a full size or more, but that is really not my focus.

    Basically, the tl;dr is that my “do nothing” weight had gotten to the point of worrying about long-term negative health effects (my BP even hit 120, which is 30 points higher than “normal”). My all-or-nothing personality likes to throw myself into diet and exercise with some perfect goal in mind, and then when I can’t achieve/maintain that, just give up completely and veg and order Papa John’s. But that approach is not working for me any more and will not give me the quality of life or health I want. So I am trying to re-train my thinking to focus on what I *can* do, and not just give up completely because I can’t meet some arbitrary number on a scale. Make sense?

  72. Last night on the local news they showcased a 92 year old man. He runs 3 miles 3-4 days a week, and then does a 120 walking laps in the pool 3-4 days a week. He looked amazing. He started running when he was 55. So the lesson is that you can pick up exercise when you are older and have more time to commit to it.

  73. Returned from our trip to Hawaii last night, here’s my review/report:

    First, all the logistics worked great. We flew Toronto-Maui-Toronto with stops in Chicago and LA going west and just LA coming east. Toronto because although a 3 hour drive from our house the airfare was >$500pp lower. We left our car at the Airport Marriott because to park there for a week including a 1 night stay was ~$120 US. Their shuttle service was fine.

    Arrived in Kahului (Maui) on Sunday night. Stayed at the Courtyard by the airport since our condo stay did not begin till the next day. We got a “suite” which was very comfortable. We were starving and we at in the hotel’s “Bistro” which lucky for us was serving till 10pm. Perfect, since we were also tired (3am body time).

    Took our time driving to the condo, since check in was 4pm (resorts, you know), so we went around the west side (Lahaina, Ka’anapali, Kapalua are places you might have heard of) all the way around to the north end to the Nakalele Blowhole. It’s a 15min hike down to see it up close and it’s very cool.

    Our studio condo was at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas (North). There’s “south” also. For us, it probably wouldn’t have mattered which we were in. We were on the first floor, which I know sometimes isn’t desirable, but this was good for us because just beyond our small patio (two chairs and an table) was grass onto which DS could put a chair he got from nearby guest-use grills so we could sit outside and have happy hour at the end of a tough day. The condo worked well for us and it included a washer/dryer, a full size fridge/freezer, and a pretty well stocked (cooking/eating vessels) kitchen. We pretty much only did breakfast and happy hour in the room. We had a king size bed and a (queen?) pull out couch which when open there was still enough room to walk around. Included in our deal was a rental car for a week and so this was a great plus.

    Other than relaxing by the pool/at the beach we got up early a couple of days to (1) drive up to Mt. Haleakala 10,000 ft elevation to see sunrise. I talked about this maybe on Tuesday’s thread. Definitely worth it. And (2) on Thursday we did snorkeling at Molokini and at Maluaka. We went with Trilogy http://www.sailtrilogy.com and I was very pleased with the whole experience. The one we went on was from 7a-1230p and included about 45min in the water at each place. They also fed us breakfast and lunch (including 2 drinks!). Hard to tell if they are the “best” as Tripadvisor says, but again I was very happy with them.

    We spent Saturday walking around the town of Lahaina to do our tourist/souvenir shopping on our way to the airport for our redeye that night.

    Restaurants we ate at:
    Jack’s, a hole in the wall local place in Kahului for breakfast our first morning
    Hula Grill in Whaler’s Village (I particularly enjoyed the Coconut Seafood Chowder)
    Duke’s in Kaanapali, on the beach a short walk from our condo
    The poolside burger/drinks place because we didn’t feel like getting cleaned up to go someplace that night.
    Star Noodle (saw this on DDD and some locals recommended it. Good food, set up for sharing)
    Honu Fish and Pizza (we all had fish/seafood and this was probably our favorite)
    Betty’s Cafe (for breakfast one morning in Lahaina)
    Down the Hatch (another DDD place. Good, but I was a little disappointed)

  74. “Last night on the local news they showcased a 92 year old man. He runs 3 miles 3-4 days a week, and then does a 120 walking laps in the pool 3-4 days a week. He looked amazing. He started running when he was 55. So the lesson is that you can pick up exercise when you are older and have more time to commit to it.”

    Dammit, Lemon. Now I have no excuse!

  75. Laura, sounds like you’ve hit in a great balance. It isn’t a thin dusting everywhere, it’s heavy on all sides, but still a balance. Now whether you work hard at a desk job and play hard at CF & in parades or work hard at Crossfit and play is eating well is up for debate. The social aspect is a great way to keep yourself going and use your competative side. Incidentally, my lowest healthy set point was in my mid thirties, about 7 lbs heavier than yours, and my highest weight was 7 lbs lighter than yours. I saw that digit about to roll over right around the time I pulled my back and said “no”.

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